MarySmith’sPlace – The Scottish Riviera

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I thought I’d take you on one of my favourite circular walks. Even on a grey day it’s a great walk which takes in coastline and woodland and an ancient hill fort. It’s a short walk (3.25 miles/5.25 km) although, if the tide is out you can add a bit extra by walking to Rough Island over the causeway which is exposed at low tide.

The walk starts at either Kippford or Rockcliffe, two villages on the East Stewartry Coast, a National Scenic Area in Dumfries & Galloway. The area is known for its turbulent history, smugglers, wonderful scenery, wildlife, birdlife and wild flowers. In fact, the Victorians, who discovered its delights as a holiday resort, named it The Scottish Riviera.

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Marina at Kippford

Starting at Kippford there’s car parking by the village hall and from there you walk past the marina (dreaming of the yacht a lottery win would buy) and through the village, past the lifeboat station and The Ark shop and tearoom (cakes to die for when you return) and along a private road (choosing which of the very desirable houses that lottery win would buy) along the shoreline.

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Rough Island at low tide with the causeway on the right.

Rough Island is soon in view. It’s owned by National Trust for Scotland and is a bird sanctuary. Visitors are discouraged in May and June to avoid disturbing nesting oystercatchers and ringed plovers. It’s small but nice to visit and you can take a stone from the beach to place on the cairn on top of the hill.

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Loved the ferns growing out of this moss-covered tree

A track leads up from the shoreline into the woodland. Follow the path for Rockcliffe. You come out of the woodland, cross a meadow, through a kissing gate, past the entrance to a house and through a second gate.

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The track takes you out onto Rockcliffe bay with its lovely mixture of rocks, sand and rock pools. There are public loos and often a Mr Whippy van parked nearby, an information board tells visitors about the area – and more lovely houses overlooking the sea.

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To return to Kippford, follow the signs for the Jubilee Path (to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee) and head back up, past the Baron’s Craig Hotel, into the woods. At a crossroads, signposts direct you to the Mote of Mark, the hilltop fort which overlooks the Urr estuary.

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Mote of Mark

It was the court of a Dark Age chieftain, possibly one of the princes of Rheged, and was occupied from the 5th to 7th centuries. The main defences consisted of stone and timber walls with a timber gate at the main entrance. It may have been destroyed by fire in the 7th century as the outer wall shows evidence that heat caused stones to fuse together. This could have been due to the Angles attacking and burning the place (Angle runic inscriptions were found at the site) though it’s possible the walls were deliberately vitrified to strengthen them.

Excavations in 1913 and 1973 unearthed a large, circular timber hut and evidence of metalworking. Iron was brought from the Lake District and jet from York. Pottery imported from Bordeaux and glass from the Rhineland, were also found.

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Rough Island from the Mote of Mark with Hestan Island in the background

Back at the crossroads another detour can be made to Mark Hill – okay so these detours add a bit more to the length of the walk but that coffee and cake at the end will be worth the extra effort. The path, through managed woodland, climbs up and round the hill and offers spectacular views of the Solway from the view point.

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This stone is on the path up to the top of the hill fort. I don’t know if the pattern is the result of weathering or man-made. Any ideas?

Head down the hill, re-join the path and carry on back to Kippford – and coffee and cake. I had a banana and chocolate brownie. I’d eaten before I thought to take a photo of it!

MarySmith’sPlace -What a difference a day makes

Capricious – a rather lovely word to describe Scotland’s changeable weather. I can think of others less flattering. My last post was about a very wet walk along part of the Ayrshire Coastal Path when it rained on us for the entire walk. Yet the following day the sun shone out of a brilliant blue sky.

It was supposed to be a writing day but I couldn’t resist going out to enjoy the sunshine and decided on a short walk along the shore at Sandyhills, on the Solway coast. It’s about twelve miles from where I live. In the summer, the beach is crowded with holiday makers, some of whom stay at the caravan park and there is a charge for parking. In the winter, parking is free. Most of the other people on the beach are dog walkers or, like me, simply out to make the most of a bright, sunny – if cold – day.

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In the 19th century and early part of the 20th century the Solway Firth was a major shipping channel bringing and taking goods to and from the ports of Dumfries. The treacherous Barnhourie Banks were responsible for a number of shipwrecks including, among others, the William Levitt bound from Quebec to Greenock in 1888, the St Patrick (four days after the ship ran aground one crew member was found alive, clinging to the rigging), and the Village Belle heading for Glasgow from Penzance in 1914. She ran aground at Barnhourie, the crew took to the lifeboat, which also ran aground and they then walked across the sand for three miles to the Southwick Burn where a local farmer helped them.

Apart from history, which includes the remains of a Bronze Age cremation burial site, the area abounds with legends of mermaids – some of whom save drowning sailors, while others who sing them to their doom – smugglers, and excisemen.

It’s a lovely walk from Sandyhills over the coastal path to Rockcliffe but today I don’t have time so content myself with a walk along the shore before climbing up and returning along the clifftop path.

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Entrance to one of the many caves along this coast

Stake nets are a traditional form of tide fishing. Long ago, before stake nets were developed, fishermen created a hollow in the sand which trapped fish in a pool of water left when the tide retreated. Later, rocks and hurdles were used to form the pools and eventually the stake nets. These consist of nets hung vertically on stakes driven into the sand, often in a zig-zag pattern. The nets have narrow openings which salmon can easily enter but not so easily exit.

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Stake nets with wind turbines behind them



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The rocky cliffs are peppered with caves and incredible shapes.

From the clifftop path the views are stunning. You can see why this is such a popular place with both visitors and locals alike. Despite how empty it looks in the photos I met many people out walking – it’s just such a big, big space!

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The square shape out to sea is an RAF bombing target used in World War Two by the Number 10 Bombing and Gunnery School based at the Heathhall airfield, Dumfries.

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Perfect outdoor poetry performance space!

This final photo is looking across to the snow-covered hills of Cumbria.DSC01370 (Custom)